CROYDON IN CRISIS: More than 20 ‘Healthy School Streets’ introduced in 2023 have never had any enforcement CCTV cameras installed because the council purchased equipment that does not work in Britain.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Another omnishambles of procurement at Croydon Council has seen the roads department spend huge amounts of public cash on the wrong kind of CCTV cameras.
“Healthy School Streets” are where unauthorised vehicles are supposed to be banned from the roads outside schools at dropping off and picking up times during term. But nine streets, affecting 10 schools, which are supposed to be operating on a legally required trial period since January this year have done so without any data collection or enforcement from number-plate recognition cameras.
Another nine streets which were introduced in March this year, to help protect children attending 11 other schools, are also thought to be without any enforcement from ANPR cameras.
According to council sources, and a brief and deliberately obtuse reference in an official report going to tomorrow night’s council cabinet meeting, officials bought equipment from an American supplier which has been found to be incompatible with British car number plates.
When operating properly, the cameras are supposed to discourage drivers from using the school streets, which with reduced traffic levels are supposed to encourage parents and children to use “active travel”: walking, cycling and scooting. Schemes elsewhere in London have seen increases in active travel of as much as 65per cent, as parents and carers have left their cars at home for the twice-daily school run.
For those who drive vehicles down designated school streets without a permit, they can face fines of up to £130. In 2022, London boroughs issued fines that totalled nearly £52million.
But without specialist ANPR – automatic number plate recognition – cameras, there can be no fines, and there’s no deterrent.
Papers submitted to tomorrow night’s council cabinet meeting say also that the budget is having to be adjusted because of the short-fall in predicted income from fines on motorists because of the absence of functioning cameras in the council’s car parks.
School run-related traffic accounts for a quarter of cars on the road and adds 254,000 vehicles a day in London.
Croydon Council’s own website waxes lyrical about the benefits of healthy school streets. “Busy streets around schools are preventing families walking, cycling or taking other forms of active travel on the way to school,” they say.
“Making these roads quieter to allow for active travel can make a massive difference to the amount of exercise children and families get each day.
“Streets with school entrances face large spikes in traffic during the morning and afternoon school runs. For residents of these streets, the start and end of the school day are noisy, polluted and dangerous times. Residents may struggle to park or drive to work due to the large numbers of families driving to school.
“School Streets help to relieve the pressure on these busy roads. The pilot schemes provided strong evidence that the traffic displacement does not cause road safety issues of any significance on the roads around School Streets.”
It is beginning to appear that the lack of working ANPR cameras has been an issue since before the introduction of the latest groups of school streets.
In February, Steve Iles, the council director supposedly in charge of this latest clusterfuck, told a council meeting, “Not all of the sites are live but they are in the process of being implemented.”
To many working within Fisher’s Folly, it is a daily miracle that gaffe-prone Iles remains in his six-figure salaried job. “It’s as if he’s rendered himself unsackable,” said one council insider.
Then, earlier this month, Inside Croydon reported how on one school street introduced in January there had not been a single fine levied.
Croydon Council’s press office refused to answer Inside Croydon’s questions about the missing ANPR cameras.
But we have now confirmed through a Freedom of Information request that at least nine of the borough’s newest “Healthy School Streets”, covering 10 schools, which were introduced in January this year, have no functioning ANPR cameras.
The schools are five months into what was supposed to be a statutory six-month consultation period.
Anecdotal reports from parents and road-users at 11 other schools, where similar trials were supposed to begin in March, also report an absence of any enforcement cameras.
Parents at schools where the schemes were introduced this year suggest that while traffic levels did reduce when they were introduced and the road signs put up, many local drivers have worked out that there are no cameras, and no risk of any fine, and so traffic levels have gradually crept back to previous levels. Parents, too, have gone back to using their cars for the school run, with all the idling and pollution that goes with it.
The “Group 3” healthy school streets which came into operation in January but where there are no ANPR cameras are:
- South Norwood Primary School (SE25 5QP)
- Howard Primary School (CR0 1DT)
- Gonville Academy (CR7 6DL)
- Kenley Primary School and Kindergarten (CR3 0EX)
- Park Hill Junior and Infants School (CR0 5NS)
- Oasis Academy Shirley Park (CR0 7BE)
- The Crescent Primary School and The BRIT School (CR0 2HN)
- St Cyprian’s Greek Orthodox Primary Academy (CR7 8DZ)
- Good Shepherd Catholic Primary and Nursery School (CR0 0RG)
The “Group 4” school streets, which commenced in March this year, are also thought to be lacking cameras. Inside Croydon has been unable to confirm this situation as the council’s press office has failed to respond, despite several requests.
These schools are:
- Rockmount Primary School
- Kensington Avenue Primary School and Norbury High School for Girls
- Harris Invictus Academy Croydon
- Elmwood Infants School and Elmwood Junior School
- St James the Great Primary and Nursery School
- Harris Academy South Norwood (Beulah Hill Campus)
- Oasis Academy Byron
- St Peter’s Primary School
- The Minster Nursery and Infant School
- The Write Time School
Parents of children attending the schools say that the scheme is a “white elephant” and the failure a “scandal”.
Some suggest that the failure to provide any enforcement measures has even put their children in danger. “Traffic levels have gradually got back to what it was like before the school street was supposed to have started,” one parent told Inside Croydon. “Drivers have twigged there are no cameras.
“But this false sense of security, going to or coming home from what’s been described by the council as a ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ school street is putting children at risk, because they think they have some kind of protection when, in fact, thanks to Croydon Council, it doesn’t exist.”
There’s more than a suspicion that pro-pollution Perry, the council’s Mayor, is quite relaxed about the situation, since he wants to appease the motoring lobby by wiping away all traffic reduction and cleaner air initiatives in the borough. If school street schemes can be judged to have “failed” for lack of fines and no decrease in traffic, it could be excuse enough for Mayor Perry to order that they are all scrapped.
Paragraph 4.11 of Appendix 7 (“2022-23 Month 10 Financial Performance Report”) going to the cabinet tomorrow night, addresses issues with ANPR cameras at the council’s car parks. The “delays” can also apply to school streets.
“Parking Services continue to have delays in connection with the roll-out of new ANPR cameras which could affect the anticipated income levels within the service both in the [2022-2023] financial year and ongoing into [2023-2024].
“The parking budget has been rebased for 2023-2024 based on a timetabled roll-out of Healthy Neighbourhood Schemes, so any delays in the implementation of the cameras could have a detrimental effect on these figures.”
The funding for healthy school streets is mostly provided by Transport for London, which also has the ability in some cases where traffic-reduction schemes have not been implemented to demand the money be returned.
Other councils in London have expressed concern about the difficulties in finding suppliers of cameras.
Croydon thought it had resolved that by doing a deal with an American manufacturer (no jokes about “a bunch of cowboys”, please…).
According to a source at Fisher’s Folly: “The cameras don’t work and hence they’ve not even bothered installing them.”
There has been a suggestion that the issue with the cameras is software related, but the council has been waiting all year for an update.
“The council signed a deal for cameras from an American company. It turns out that the cameras aren’t actually able to detect UK number plates. I’ve been told it will be a while yet before the issue is sorted. I’ve also been told that it means the number of people being fined (and thus revenues) are down significantly.
“It sounds like when they agreed the contract they were unaware of the issue, but now they can’t get out of it.”
Read more: Fining car drivers is not fine with pro-pollution Mayor Perry
Read more: Council boss admits road fine ANPR cameras not switched on
Read more: Director admits £12m sums on ANPR fines don’t add up
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Over two years ago some numbskulls in the Town Hall signed a deal with an American company to supply us with digital bus shelters. To date they’ve never appeared and the company meant to be providing them narrowly avoided being struck off the Companies House register.
Now we learn that some numbskulls in the Town Hall signed a deal with an American company to supply us with CCTV ANPR systems that don’t work.
What consequences will follow for these failures? Will anyone be questioned about what went wrong? Will anyone be held to account? Based on past fiascos, “no” is the answer in each case.
It’s about time heads rolled, pour encourager les autres
Steve “Teflon” Iles at his most cumbersome again! No surprise there, but how do these individuals stay in their high salary positions when all they do is mess up, time and time again?
Truly it appears that the “ patients are running the asylum”
How politely put
But there are schools who had such measures introduced in 2022 and even though the cameras are in place they are not “live” one example is St. Josephs Primary School in Woodend Upper Norwood. the consequence is firstly parent parking, through traffic, loss of council revenue from penalty notices and they do not even source enforcement officers to ensure safety of children and public.